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Investigative reporter gets jail term

Officer was bribed for a corruption exposé

Asia Desk, Bangkok

September 10, 2012

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An international reporters’ organization is demanding the immediate release of a reporter who was sentenced on Friday to four years in prison. Hoang Khuong, 37, who worked for the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper, was sentenced for bribery while working on an exposé about police officers who took payments for turning a blind eye to traffic violations. "This sentence is as unfair as it is disgraceful," said Reporters Without Borders director general Christophe Deloire after the two-day trial. "By punishing Khuong for his investigative reporting and his two stories on police corruption, the judge transformed a public service into a crime." Khuong, whose real name is Nguyen Van Khuong, asserted that he did not bribe anyone and that he only made the mistake of being involved in giving 15 million dong (US$720) to Huynh Minh Duc, a traffic police officer, on behalf of traffic violator Tran Minh Hoa – an action Khuong says was only aimed at obtaining evidence for a story about the officer’s corruption. The incident occurred in June 2011 and his articles were published on July 3 and 10. In his last words at the court, Khuong said, “If I had not written the two articles, would I be standing in the dock now? It was purely out of professional shortcomings, with honest motives in detecting and fighting corruption in line with the Party and State policies.” The prosecutor’s office had earlier proposed a six- to seven-year sentence, but the court said Khuong’s contribution as a journalist was an extenuating circumstance. Deloire said that citing the reporting in this way acknowledged its usefulness. “We urge the court to overturn this conviction and release him without delay," he said.
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